Note: This post is part one of a three part series on photographing Las Vegas:
- Part 1 – Las Vegas Street Photography
- Part 2 – The Las Vegas Strip at Night
- Part 3 – Freemont Street!
Many readers of this blog know that I lead a double life, working as a paramedic and as a photographer. Recently I was asked if I could attend a conference on trauma care….
…in Las Vegas.
My time was going to be quite full during the conference, so I booked a few extra days for photography. I have been testing the new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens, but my Fuji X-T1 needs its sensor cleaned so I decided to travel ultra light with just my beloved Fuji X100t.
I have two more posts coming up on photographing the Las Vegas strip at night, and on shooting the Freemont Street Experience. For now though, let’s just have some fun and talk about shooting street photography on the Las Vegas strip…
I landed in the early afternoon, and had a couple of hours before my hotel room was going to be ready. I travel ultra light so the second I stepped out of the cab I had my Fuji X100t in hand and begin shooting.
For me there is a rhythm to shooting on the street, one that is similar to a musician getting “in the groove”. I need to get warmed up, relaxed, over any nerves I may be having as I start my day of shooting. It doesn’t take me long to go through this process, but I find I am always the most confident approaching strangers, making street portraits, etc an hour or two into my day of shooting.
When I teach photography workshops I often tell people who need to warm up to start by shooting street entertainers if there are any in their area. They are often wonderful people, are used to being photographed, and make interesting photo subjects:
Be sure not just to grab a shot and hurry past them though. These people are working, many creating art just like we are with our cameras. When I shoot street I carry spare change, or money in $1 denominations, so I can tip the artists when I shoot them.
As soon as possible get over your nerves and interact with your subjects…. honestly get to know them. Be respectful of time (as they are working), but you are much more likely to get a compelling portrait once you have built a rapport with someone:
I love that photograph. That young man was the second coming of Jimi Hendrix. It was such a pleasure to speak with him on that overpass, watch and listen to him play, and to make 10 or 12 portraits of him until I captured this moment. I had much the same experience with these gentlemen:
It may come as a surprise to some people that you can walk down the Las Vegas strip with open bottles or glasses of alcohol. I’m always intrigued by this, perhaps because this isn’t something you usually see day to day:
I quickly fell in love with shooting street photography on the Las Vegas strip. The strip is a melting pot of people, with the casino experience being the great equalizer. These two gentleman were deeply engaged in a serious conversation when I photographed them:
And, you never really know what is going to stop at a red light beside you:
Or, who is just going to lie down on the sidewalk to ensure that their electronics are fully charged:
I’m sure most of the people on the strip are tourists. You can always find someone sitting on the side of the street taking a much needed break:
And, of course, someone beside them growing impatient as that break goes on… and on… and on…
Right after taking the photo above I turned around and saw this:
Red, white and blue. It’s almost like it was planned. Side note: Is it just me, or does that phone look huge?
I realized within an hour or two of shooting that there is amazing afternoon light on the Las Vegas strip. As the sun is setting it casts beams of light across the strip that are blocked by the towers, creating these little shafts of light that you can catch people walking through. The light was golden, and I spent a good 30 minutes waiting for the right person to come through this shaft of light:
One definition of photography is to write with light. When you find the right light it is so worth taking the time to make a great photograph in it.
For street photographers I highly recommend a trip to Las Vegas. It is extremely economical, I found the people to be friendly and open to being photographed, and the strip lit up at night means you can shoot well past dark. It was very easy to be out shooting from 6am until 10pm, and you’ll come home with a fabulous album of candid street images and portraits.
Next up we’ll talk about shooting the Las Vegas strip at night, and some tips for getting amazing cityscapes.